Everyone can benefit from better financial habits, but those who need money the most need to make greater efforts at keeping it. One-third of American families are living hand-to-mouth and that's simply too precarious for comfort. Here are six ways to improve your financial health, even though you never seem to be able to make ends meet.
Skip Fast Food
There are more unhealthy restaurants in poor neighborhoods than not, meaning your money is not only wasted, but it's working against your well being. People living below or close to the poverty level are at greater risk for obesity than those who have plenty, and in general, obesity slows you down, contributes to illness and deprives you of energy. All of that will work against you as you try and work your way up.
Don't Shop At Convenience Stores
These little corner shops are also more prevalent in poorer neighborhoods, however, the only thing convenient about them is location. You're going to pay, on average, much more than at the grocery store. Lobbyists for convenience stores are hard at work in Washington, making sure that the nation's poorest can easily make purchases at these places, but taking the time to get to a discount supermarket makes your food dollars last longer and avails your family to more nutritious options.
Don't Use Your Tax Refund For Instant Gratification
If you're eligible for a refund, do something positive with it. While it's very tempting to splurge on something expensive you wouldn't normally be able to afford, those refunds could add up to something more helpful. Get in the habit of stashing extra cash, and learn how to make it work for you. That money could eventually help you qualify for a mortgage or help pay for your child's college.
Even if your kids have gone without at birthdays and holidays, saving for their future is more beneficial than giving them a gaming system in the present. Put the money away and don't think of it as cash on hand, think of it as hard at work for your family's well being later.
Pay Bills On Time
Most bills that are not paid on time impose some kind of fee, and that adds up to a significant waste of money. It also leaves a scar on your credit report. Not to mention that queasiness you feel because you have bill collectors hanging over your head all the time. Meet your financial obligations as they come in, prioritizing all spending towards them and you'll be able to keep more of your money and sleep better at night.
Hit The Public Library
Spend an afternoon reading and taking notes. Look into every book on how to manage finances while coordinating a happy household. Every dollar you don't waste can be used for something productive, possibly putting kids through college who can then break the cycle of poverty.
There are also public services that offer free financial planning, and money advisers who work pro bono. Even if you have to pay for an appointment with a financial planner at a site like http://www.landsbergbennett.com/, what you learn is invaluable toward improving your future.
Watch Out For Businesses That Prey On Poverty
While it may sound illogical for someone to try and rob you when you're living at or below the poverty level, when a group of people are targeted en mass, it makes sense. Pawn shops, for example, make money off everyone in the area who can't pay rent on time and must find creative ways to raise money. Check-cashing operations, too, prey on people who don't have the means to keep a savings or checking account going. Paying exorbitant fees to cash your check should be out of the question; over the course of a 52-week year, you'd pay a total of 286 dollars if they charged you five and a half at every cashing.
Avoid this cash trap by setting up a no-fee, no-minimum account. You won't face penalties or closing simply because you don't have a long in the bank. Having the account will also encourage savings, because you've got a safe place to put your money. Deposit checks from work, rather than cashing them and you've made leaps and bounds toward better financial management.
Making ends meet isn't a luxury in life afforded only to the wealthy, it's your right too. Start changing a few habits today, and see how much that change adds up to quickly.